'... whoever is not against us is for us.' (Mark 9:40)
After Salvation Army founders William and Catherine Booth won their first souls in the squalor of London's East End, they swiftly directed their rough-and-ready converts to the established churches of the day for further growth in grace. However, feeling uncomfortable amid such gentility, those new believers just as promptly returned en masse to Booth and company. They felt much more at home with the Booths and the people who had impacted their lives so much.
The effect was to form a contingent of larger-than-life characters who found a new outlet for their considerable personalities and a divine cause for their prodigious energies. Former convicts, town drunks, prostitutes, and pickpockets all now raucously proclaimed new life in Christ. There was no doubt about it: The Salvation Army was the best show in town, and God used it in a powerful way to extend His kingdom.
Now it will come as no surprise that such an uncommon ministry drew withering criticism, not just from the public, but also from the Church. The Salvation Army was ridiculed as eccentric and uncouth. It was only much later that pubic acceptance—even respect—would come.
Reluctance to embrace new people has been around since the earthly ministry of Christ. Just look at these alienating words from one of Jesus' disciples concerning an unknown man who had been emulating the disciples' work (Mark 9:38):
"Because he was not one of us [...] we told him to stop."
In contrast, Christ asserted this broad principle that is shockingly liberating (Mark 9:40):
"Whoever is not against us is for us."
Today, The Salvation Army gladly creates space for those who desire to serve others in the name of Christ. And this includes you, dear reader. There is a place nearby for you to volunteer, contribute, donate, counsel—and, of course, join our Army! Quite simply, if you are not against us, you are for us!
In the pages of this issue of Priority!, you will read of an expansive vision of the Kingdom of God—about people who are helping the homeless in Las Vegas, treating the helpless in Honduras, reuniting loved ones through a vast radio network, sacri-ficing for kids in Ohio, and giving lavishly in Florida. All those people are decidedly "for us"!
How about you? If you're ready to take bold action in the name of Jesus, I invite you to be "for us" too!
Come join our Army!
Major Richard Munn
Secretary for Program
The Salvation Army, USA Eastern Territory